LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Minutes before a gunman opened fire in a Los Angeles International Airport terminal last fall, killing a security screener and wounding three other people, the two armed officers assigned to the area left for breaks without informing a dispatcher as required.
The Los Angeles Airport Police Department officers were outside Terminal 3 when authorities say Paul Ciancia opened fire with an assault rifle in an attack targeting Transportation Security Administration officers, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. The officials requested anonymity, saying they were briefed on the shooting but were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
As terrified travelers dived for cover, TSA officers - who are unarmed - fled the screening area without hitting a panic button or using a landline to call for help. It took a call from an airline contractor to a police dispatcher, who then alerted officers over the radio - a lag of nearly a minute and a half, the officials said.
Before officers could get to the scene, Ciancia fatally wounded TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez and then headed to the screening area where he shot two more agents and a traveler, authorities said. Ciancia was subdued after being wounded by officers in the gate area of the terminal.
When the shooting started, the two officials say one of the armed officers assigned to the terminal was at or just outside an adjacent terminal. One of the officials said the officer was on a bathroom break and the other foot-beat officer was in a vehicle on the tarmac outside Terminal 3, headed for a meal break.
The new details about the whereabouts of the two officers come as authorities review the overall response, including whether emergency medical personnel were forced to wait longer than necessary to remove Hernandez so he could be taken to a hospital. The AP earlier reported that Hernandez did not receive medical care until 33 minutes after he was shot. A coroner's release said he was likely dead within two to five minutes.
Departmental procedures require that officers notify a dispatcher before going on break and leaving their patrol area in order to ensure supervisors are aware of their absence and, if necessary, a relief unit can be brought in to cover their area.
Airport police union chief Marshall McClain said the two officers assigned to Terminal 3 still were in position to quickly respond to the shooting. He said he'd spoken with both and confirmed one was "going to the restroom or coming back from the restroom" and the other was headed out on a meal break but still within his patrol area.
"He hadn't gone on break yet. He was going to go on break," McClain said. What typically happens is, "if you're going to go on a lunch break, you get to your location and you tell them that you're there." Officers often do this in order to maximize their lunch break so they don't lose time while traveling.
Within a minute of the dispatcher's call, that officer had stopped someone who ran out of the terminal and the other officer was heading toward the shooting, McClain said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti told the AP in an interview that he's watched surveillance video and received briefings on the investigation. While officers were able to take Ciancia into custody within five minutes of the shooting, he said, "It could have been a lot worse."
Whatever the investigation's conclusions, Garcetti said, "I want to make sure that in any terminal, there's always somebody there, that a bathroom break doesn't result in somebody, even for a few minutes, being out of the action."
According to investigators, Ciancia, originally from Pennsville, N.J., arrived at the airport on Nov. 1 with the intention of killing TSA workers. Authorities have said Ciancia had a grudge against the agency, but they have not indicated what prompted it.
After entering the terminal, police say Ciancia pulled a semi-automatic rifle from a duffel bag and began spraying the area with gunfire. Hernandez was mortally wounded and became the first TSA agent to die in the line of duty.
The dispatcher's alert over police radio brought an officer on a Segway, another on a bike, one on a motorcycle, two in a patrol car and one on foot, said one of the law enforcement officials. Two of the first responding officers shot Ciancia, who survived and now faces murder and other charges.
Airport Police Chief Pat Gannon lauded his officers for what he called a swift and brave response to a gunman. He said he was "comfortable with what the officers were doing at the time that the shooting occurred and their ability to respond to the incident."
"It's not about who was or was not there and how that all occurred," Gannon said. "Those officers responsible for that terminal were there as quick as anybody else was to deal with those particular issues. They were not goofing off."
Airports are allowed to make their own security plans for armed officers, as long as they follow basic guidelines and get their plans approved by the TSA. An updated policy at LAX was outlined last April in an internal memo that was obtained by AP and verified by one of the officials.
Officers assigned to the terminals must inform supervisors when they want to take a break. "Absent exigent circumstances, (the units) shall not leave the assigned terminal area without prior authorization and a relief unit," the memo stated.
In an important change, officers no longer were required to remain at a podium by the screening area. In an effort to make security plans less predictable, they are allowed to roam the terminal provided they can respond to an emergency at the screening station within three minutes.
TSA Officer Victor Payes, who works at the airport and is president of the local union, said removing the officers from the podiums at the screening stations has been unnerving for screeners.
"They're not there, and you're saying to yourself, `Oh, hopefully nothing happens right now,'" Payes said.
TSA Administrator John Pistole testified before lawmakers two weeks after the shooting and said his agency was conducting its own review. As part of it, they are looking at "how do we ramp up the unpredictable random patrols by armed officers - at and through checkpoints - that may now be doing other things."
He said the agency was also examining, as part of its review, whether there should be a radio system that puts security screeners and airport police on the same channel.
Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent who was chief of homeland security and intelligence at LAX from 2007 to 2010, said the combination of the officers being away and the policy change gave Ciancia the soft target he wanted. Had officers still been stationed at the screening area, "that arguably would have put them in a position to know about the incident and respond to it in a much more reduced time span," he said.
Tami Abdollah can be reached at HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/LATAMS
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Bob McDonnell had just been elected governor of Virginia when a wealthy businessman who had donated the use of his private jet during the Republican's campaign requested a meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York.
The governor-elect obliged and brought along his wife, Maureen, who during the meeting told Jonnie Williams she needed a dress for the inauguration the following month, according to a federal indictment of the McDonnells.
Williams agreed to buy her an Oscar de la Renta gown, but a Bob McDonnell aide said it would be inappropriate and nixed the idea, according to the indictment returned by a grand jury Tuesday.
Peeved, the former Washington Redskins cheerleader and future first lady fired off an email to the staffer.
"I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget," the email said. "I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I'm charging up in credit card debt. We are broke and have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done."
She ultimately told Williams, then the CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific Inc., she could not accept the dress but would take a "rain check."
That scenario played out in December 2009, according to the indictment, and was allegedly the start of a four-year pattern of Virginia's first couple squeezing gifts and loans out of a benefactor who expected them to promote his company's products in return.
The indictment suggests the McDonnells cashed in that first rain check many times over: shopping sprees for designer clothes for Maureen McDonnell, a vacation stay at Williams' multimillion-dollar Smith Mountain Lake retreat, $70,000 in loans for a family real estate venture, $15,000 in catering expenses for a daughter's wedding, golf outings for the governor and family members.
The day after the Smith Mountain Lake vacation, which allegedly included use of Williams' Ferrari, Williams was in a meeting with the McDonnells and a senior state health official, pitching Star Scientific products and even suggesting that government employees could serve as a control group for research studies, according to the indictment.
Also that day, the indictment said, Maureen McDonnell persuaded Williams to buy a $6,500 Rolex watch that she presented to her husband as a gift with "71st Governor of Virginia" engraved on the back.
The government alleges there were other instances of the McDonnells using their influence to help Williams' company, including hosting an Executive Mansion reception for Star Scientific to launch it signature product with university researchers in attendance.
Twelve of the 14 counts in Tuesday's indictment are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, two by up to 30 years. Possible fines range from $250,000 to $1 million.
McDonnell has apologized and said he returned more than $120,000 in gifts and loans to Williams, but has insisted he did nothing illegal. He said Tuesday night that federal prosecutors stretched the law to make a case against him and his wife.
"I will use every available resource and advocate that I have for as long as it takes to fight and prevail against these false allegations and the unjust overreach of the federal government," McDonnell said at a news conference, where he read from a statement and took no questions.
"I repeat again emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal friendship and his generosity," said McDonnell. He described the federal investigation as "indescribably agonizing" and said that "the federal government's case rests entirely on a misguided legal theory."
Maureen McDonnell joined her husband at the news conference but did not speak. Her attorney, William Burck, said in a statement that the Department of Justice "has overreached to bring these charges."
Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman offered a different view.
"Today's charges represent the Justice Department's continued commitment to rooting out public corruption at all levels of government," she said in a news release. "Ensuring that elected officials uphold the public's trust is one of our most critical responsibilities."
McDonnell's lawyers filed a strongly worded motion Tuesday evening seeking instructions and recordings of any comments federal prosecutors made to the grand jury about the legal validity of the charges.
"To bring today's indictment, the federal government has concocted a never-before-used legal theory manufactured for the sole purpose of prosecuting Governor McDonnell and his wife," they wrote.
They called the governor's prosecution days after leaving office "disgraceful" and "contemptuous of the citizens of Virginia who elected him."
A bond hearing and arraignment is set for both defendants Friday in U.S. District Court in Richmond.
McDonnell left office earlier this month after four years in the governor's office. Virginia law limits governors to a single term.
The federal investigation overshadowed the final months in office for the once-rising star of the Republican Party. At one time, McDonnell had been considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney. McDonnell delivered the 2010 Republican response to the State of the Union Address, and became chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2011.
The 43-page indictment outlines several instances in which the McDonnells allegedly touted the legitimacy of Star Scientific's dietary supplement Anatabloc.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration informed Star Scientific that it has been unlawfully promoting Anatabloc as a drug by citing studies suggesting it can be used to treat multiple sclerosis and other diseases. The company has said it is working with the FDA to resolve that issue as well as an allegation that it marketed the products without required federal approval.
In a written statement Tuesday evening, Star Scientific attorney Abbe David Lowell said "it is a sad day when criminal charges are brought against any elected official," and the company will continue to cooperate with authorities in the McDonnell case.
Virginia Republican lawmakers were quick to express their support for McDonnell as well as their sadness and disappointment that charges were filed. House Speaker William J. Howell and other Republican House leaders issued a statement calling McDonnell their "good friend" and saying they were praying for the former governor and his family.
"We believe in the rule of law and are confident in the ability of our legal system to render the rightful judgment, whatever it may be," the statement said.
Meanwhile Democrats used the indictments to call for stricter ethics rules for lawmakers. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation this year in reaction to McDonnell's gift scandal that would place a $250 limit on gifts to lawmakers. And new Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed an executive order his first day in office prohibiting gifts to the governor, his family or staff of more than $100.
"This is a sad day for Virginia, but I remain optimistic that we can work together to reform our system in order to prevent episodes like this from occurring ever again," McAuliffe said in a statement.
The scandal unfolded last year around the same time as a separate politically embarrassing case involving a former Executive Mansion chef who was accused of embezzlement and, in turn, accused McDonnell's children of taking mansion food and supplies for personal use. The governor later reimbursed the state and the chef pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors.
The fallout seeped into the general election, with McDonnell playing a low-key role in support of Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who lost to McAuliffe. Asked why he hadn't been more visible, McDonnell replied, "That's a question for the candidate."
Tuesday's indictment against the McDonnells includes one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud; three counts of honest-services wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right; six counts of obtaining property under color of official right; and one count of making false statements to a federal credit union.
The former governor is also charged with an additional count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell is charged with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
Associated Press writers Steve Szkotak and Alan Suderman contributed to this report. Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker contributed from Washington.